Honduras: Int. Law Experts file an amicus curiae brief requesting the cessation of criminal proceedings against the defenders of the Guapinol River

On November 17, 2021, eleven international human rights organizations[1] filed an amicus curiae brief before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Honduras, arguing against the unjust, extensive pretrial detention of the human rights activists known as the Guapinol Environmental Defenders. The Defenders have spent over two years in pretrial detention for events related to a peaceful protest to protect water sources in the Carlos Escaleras National Park. The brief argues that the extensive detention prior to their trial has violated the Defenders’ fundamental constitutional and international human rights. Honduran courts repeatedly reject attempts to release the Defenders, most recently from the Sentencing Court in Trujillo on October 27, 2021. The case is set to be heard before the Sentencing Court in La Ceiba starting on December 1, 2021.

The amicus emphasizes the findings of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which investigated this case and found that the detention of the Guapinol Defenders lacked a legal basis, violated international norms, and should be reversed immediately. The government of Honduras disregarded these findings and is attempting to criminalize legal social protest in an effort to restrict the freedoms of political speech and collective gathering. The amicus filing urges the Court to reverse the Public Ministry’s efforts to make an example out of these Defenders and to respect international human rights.

​​Further, the amicus asks the Court to release the Guapinol Environmental Defenders from detention and drop all criminal charges against them. The Public Ministry of Honduras does not have evidence that connects the Defenders to the alleged crimes that occurred during the protest, which is a violation of their rights to due process and a fair trial. The extensive pretrial detention violates the international principle that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty. This is because the unreasonably extensive detention without trial effectively finds the Defenders guilty before they are afforded their day in court. As a result, Honduras is in gross violation of its international human rights obligations.

In the event that the Court decides not to drop the charges or release the Guapinol Environmental Defenders, the brief further argues that the court should at least revise the criminal charges brought. The Guapinol Environmental Defenders were wrongly charged with aggravated arson pursuant to an outdated version of Honduras’ criminal code. The older version of the criminal code is being applied to the Defenders to illegally apply crimes with longer sentences to justify their extensive pretrial detention. The Court should revise these charges in order to bring Honduras in compliance with international principles.

The brief was filed with the hope that Honduras will begin to recognize its international human rights obligations and will remedy the injustice that has been imposed upon the Guapinol Environmental Defenders. The world is watching Honduras; we urge the Court to respect the inalienable rights the Defenders are endowed to as human beings. 

[1] These organizations include the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law, the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF), Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (RFKHR), Human Rights Clinic of the Human Rights and Education Centre of the University of Ottawa, Equipo Jurídico por los Derechos Humanos, CIVICUS, Protección Internacional Mesoamérica, ERIC-SJ, el Observatorio Mundial Contra la Tortura, el Centro de Derechos de Mujeres, and Dejusticia.

 Civic space in the Honduras is rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor.



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